The pay bill for senior NHS managers is accelerating ahead of pay for nursing staff, research by the Royal College of Nursing has found.

Pay packages for senior NHS managers has accelerated far faster than that of nurses, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

The trade union, which received Freedom of Information requests from provider trusts across England, found that the wages of executive directors over the last two years has increased by an average of 6.1%, compared to a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.

The findings come after the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, controversially blocked a recommended 1% pay rise for 600,000 nurses and other staff in the NHS.

"The findings in this report are yet another kick in the teeth for hardworking and loyal nursing staff," said Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.

He added: "The government has maintained an iron grip on the pay and benefits of frontline staff whilst the senior managers pay bill has seemingly gone unchecked.

"This is the worst kind of double standard and makes a mockery of their insistence that fairness has been at the heart of their decision making on public sector pay."

The research also revealed that 50% of trusts surveyed by the RCN, which the government allows to set senior management remuneration, have awarded salary increases of at least £5,000 ($8,486, €6,270) to one or more executive director and a quarter have awarded increases in benefit in kind payments to at least one or more executive directors.

The figures also show that the highest increase in executive costs were in the Eastern region (14.81%) and that countrywide, increases were highest at acute specialist trusts (13%).

The Department of Health had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.